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Prayer was always a personal thing for me. Despite not going to church or really knowing God, I knew he was around and listening. Occasionally, I prayed before bed but always before meals, after all I wanted my food to be blessed.

When I came to know Christ, praying became second nature for me. Praying as I poured coffee and studied for finals. Praying as I drove and hung out with friends. Praying as I read the bible. Praying, just me and God was great, but praying out loud was another story, perhaps for another time.  

Over the past few years, I have come to understand how powerful prayer is, how often I take it for granted and how much I have brushed it off in the past. It has been truly eye opening and I know there is still so much to learn. 

Pray without ceasing.  1 Thessalonians 5:17

The basis of this verse is a daily conversation. Prayer is communication. It is an ongoing conversation from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. It is a relationship. It is trust and love. It is comfort. Prayer is a lifeline in daily battles.

God does not want you kneeling down for hours on end with your hands folded and head bowed - although there is a time for that. Some of the best prayers happen when you are driving through rush hour traffic and picking up kiddos from school. When you are in line at grocery store or sitting at your desk at work. God is always there. Always ready to hear what you have to say, even though he knows every thought before it is ever spoken (Psalm 139:4).

Prayer allows you to keep God in the context of every situation you encounter. Thanking him for the good things, even if you have to look hard to find them and asking for help in the difficult situations, along with those random thoughts about how good an ice cream sundae sounds right about now. God loves you and wants a relationship with you.

When you are getting to know someone, you have to spend time with them to start a relationship and speak to them. The same is true about God. He wants alone time with you in his word. In quiet time. In corporate worship. And communicating through prayer.

I pray that if you have never prayed, that you would try it and see how perfectly it fits in to your day amongst the daily grind. I pray that you would not be intimidated or focus on the "how to" but rather speaking honestly and in truth.

I pray that you would have candid conversations and give thanks regularly. I pray that prayer would become so woven in to your day that you would be lost without them. I pray that your faith grows as you start to trust God with the most sacred parts of your life and that you would see how he has pieced everything together for your good (Romans 8:28).

Here's to praying and getting to know God. Here's to the best listener ever. 

And if you ever need prayer, please do not hesitate to ask.
I have always enjoyed running. It is more of an outlet than anything else. Time to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the outdoors. I am not a treadmill kind of girl. I get a little stir crazy being the same spot.

I started running in high school as a stress relief. Nothing formal, just some shoes and myself . Running gave me freedom and distance from problems. A little bit of my own reality and peace to mix in with the chaos of my home life. 

These days, I find running helps to keep myself in balance and disciplined to know God better, as he is constantly guiding my steps. He has shown me that running to him is always the answer, even though some days it seems so much easier to run away. Run away from the daily grind. From diapers and sippy cups and messes and whining and disciplining. Run away from the biggest blessings God has given me.

I truly believe that your biggest blessings can be your biggest trials, as well. What that looks like to you may be different. Perhaps your dream job has become a nightmare with more hours being logged than you anticipated. Or your knight in shining armor has become more of a frog. Or your much prayed for child has been more than you feel you can handle. Or your lack of a child at this time in life. Whatever it is, I pray that you would run to God with it. He already knows what you need before you ask (Matt 6:8) and wants all of you, even the messy parts.  

I pray that you would seek God to reopen your eyes to the blessings of it all. I pray that you would be transformed by the renewing of your mind in the situation that may seem hopeless (Romans 12:2). I pray that you would learn from your situation the lessons that only God can teach from it.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
I pray that you would see the joy in the midst of the storms and that you would not give up. That you would be able to share your trials with others because that is what community is for (Galations 6:2). I pray that your trial would be an example of your faith to others and encouragement to those going through the same thing.

Forever Reign by Hillsong is constantly playing in my head as I jog, along with prayers for the neighborhood, family and friends and you. Have a listen.

I’m running to Your arms, the riches of Your love will always be enough 
           nothing compares to Your embrace, light of the world, forever reign.

Here's to trials and running to God. Here's to perseverance and incomprehensible joy through it all

A few years ago a local church decided to close its doors for just one Sunday. The reason? For the church to be the church. To be living out the great commission. To be the hands and feet of Jesus. It was a controversial topic for those that heard of it, even more so for those who attended. How could the church just close? No corporate worship? No fellowship? Of course, it is a great idea. People are out in the community changing lives with their presence all in the name of Jesus. But isn't that what you are doing six other days of the week? I completely agree with both sides of the debate, which leads me to this verse. 
I desire mercy, not sacrifice. Hosea 6:6

This verse has been tumbling around in my head the past month. What does it mean? What does it look like lived out? Jesus quotes this several times in Matthew, words that were first spoken by God to Hosea during a time when the Israelites had turned from God, once again. 

God wants mercy NOT sacrifice. He wants to see love over religion. He wants to see actions from a changed heart, not routine worship. He wants to see forgiveness lived out, not idle words. 

When you accept Jesus as your Savior you start learning new things, the lingo and the bible stories to go with it. You get a little more grounded in the teachings. You learn the ins and outs. The church becomes a familiar place with familiar people and worship can become commonplace. 

The Pharisees had religion down to a T, yet they did not have the heart for it. They looked down on others. Judged them. Lifted themselves above them. Had distinguished clothes. Prayed louder and longer. But their hearts were the furthest from God. And their actions? They lead people away from God.  

They lead people away from God. The people who are suppose to be set apart to lead others and teach them about the God of the universe, where actually keeping others from wanting to know him.

I pray that if you have professed your need for Jesus and have been changed by his grace, that you would not be merely offering sacrifices - offerings of monetary donations or time -  but that you would show mercy to others. I pray that if you have been praying for change that you would allow God to truly change you and allow you to give mercy in abundance.

I pray that you would give mercy to the mama whose child is being rambunctious. To the car who just cut you off on the freeway. To the co-worker who keeps giving you work to finish. I pray that you would have eyes to see and ears to hear and mercy to give. 

I pray that you would not be so caught up in growing and healthy Christian living that you lose your focus of God. I pray that you would be aware of the lives he wants you to touch. The relationships he wants to bless you with. The peace he wants to give to you to pass on to others. The gifts he wants to reveal to you to use for his glory. 

Here's to mercy over sacrifice. 

There is something almost magical about the day you become a parent.  A certain amount of euphoria mixed with anticipation and joy beyond description. My oldest brother recently had his first baby, which got me thinking about the emotions entailed with this event.

Not knowing when baby will come is all part of the fun, whether via adoption or birth. These days, you get to plan practically neverything. But with babies, most do not get to chose the day of arrival. The excitement builds and the thought, today could be the day, emanates your thoughts. The biggest day of your life. More exciting than Christmas morning as a child. You patiently await the birth of your precious gift that God has graciously lavished on you.

The gift that will change your status to parent and will add family to your description. The gift that changes a room in your home to a nursery and sprinkles it with baby gear.

I cannot imagine how God feels when we turn to him. When we truly turn our hearts to him and become his son or daughter. The bible says that angels celebrate when one sinner turns from his ways (Luke 15:10).

It goes on to say that he has adopted us. We are his children.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1
As I was writing this, Matthew West's song, Hello, My Name is, ran through my head with that verse.  I know, another Matthew West song. He has amazing lyrics, and though he does not frequent my playlist often, the lyrics always stick. Have a listen.

Hello, my name is child of the one true King. I've been saved, I've been changed, and I have been set free. "Amazing Grace" is the song I sing Hello, my name is child of the one true King. What love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called His children. I am a child of the one true King.
The bond between a parent and child is great. How much more so with the creator of the universe who has so intricately made you? Since becoming a parent, my relationship with God has shifted and has allowed me to view him in a different light. Seeing that he really knows best. That he has the best plans there can ever be for my life. Seeing that discipline is necessary and not easy for either party involved. Seeing that my strengths and weaknesses are there for a reason and how to best use them. 

I pray that if you find yourself far from God, that you would see his out stretched hand and his big, warm, fatherly embrace to welcome you back. I pray that if you are a parent, that you would see your children as God views them, as well as yourself. You are unique and your relationship with your child and God is, too. 

Here's to adoption and returning to God the father. And parents and children and loveliness. 
I was talking with a friend recently about how she was to lead a bible study. She went on to say how was also starting a discipleship where she was the student in hopes of learning more, as she did not know as much as she thought she should. She was a little apprehensive about leading others who had more experience and expertise in the matter.

Perhaps you can you relate. Maybe you find yourself missing qualifications and degrees. You are not ready. First, you must do such and such and then this and that. Then you will be ready to do the task God has in store for you. Then you can change careers or settle in a new neighborhood. You can enter that new relationship or take on that ministry.

When God has called you to do something, he will provide all the essentials. He will give you the support, the finances, the classes. You just have to have a willing and trusting heart. 
 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.
 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:10-12 
Moses was not qualified in his eyes to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. And his background? He professes his lack of eloquence in his speech. And he once killed a guy.

He asks God to send someone else. But God sees past his failures and weakness. He sees past his insecurities to his heart. The bible states that Moses was the humblest person on earth (Numbers 12:3). Ultimately, he was obedient to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt and lead the people.

I think that is the beauty of it all. Moses does not meet the requirements of man but of God. Moses' weaknesses are made perfect in him (2 Corinthians 12:9). He has to rely on God to succeed and lead the people, not on his own capabilities. Too often we take on roles or accrue duties based on what we are capable of doing. We do not leave room for God to show up because we are too busy doing it all ourselves.

You were made for his purpose. Your experiences are your own. No one else can teach from your past and what you have learned because of it. God gave them to you so that you can share them. You do not need to be qualified, just obedient and willing.

And for extra assurance on qualifications, the disciples, Jesus' closest companions, were not what the Jews would have called qualified. Fishermen and tax collectors spread the good news of Jesus. They learned by following his example. They were not flashy or well known. Just ordinary people with an extraordinary calling. Just like you. 

If God has called you to lead, I pray that you would do it. That you would see his vision for your leadership. That you would be the servant leader. That you would cling to him and his guidance, not your own agenda. I pray that you would embrace your weaknesses and give them to God for him to use for his glory.

Whether you find yourself leading children in your home, women in your church or employees at work, I pray that you would see God's leading in it all.

Here's to affirming God's calling to lead in your life and taking a stand to do it.

I was talking with an acquaintance when he interrupted himself, asking if he has just made a complaint. I was baffled at the random question. He went on to take a rubber band from his left wrist and place it on his right, stating that he was working on not complaining. Each time a complaint was made, he moved the rubber band to his other hand, as a physical reminder of progress.

In our society, complaining is another form of speaking and great in casual conversation. The weather is too hot. No it's too cold. The food is not up to standard. The day is just horrible. You should have stayed in bed. On and on and once it starts, it just gets easier from there. 

These idol topics do nothing more than fill you will negativity. Perhaps you know someone like this. Perhaps it sounds a lot like you. Perhaps the complaining comes off with more of a bragging connotation. Oh, she is so busy. There is so much to do. How is she ever going to enjoy those vacation activities among all the other summer shenanigans? How is she going to get from work to practice and then the other party? Poor her.

It is a constant in society. A society that is so full of affluence and wealth and full bellies and two car garages that the only thing left to do is complain about all you have. How messy your house is. How you have to clean it. All the maintenance needed to perform on such and such. How much this and that costs.

When Moses took the Israelites out of Egypt, they were nearing the promise land. They had escaped Pharaoh's grasp and witnessed miracle after miracle. The parting of the red sea. Eating mana from heaven. Drinking water from a rock. God guiding them in the form of a cloud by day and fire by night, yet with all of this, they managed to find something to complain about. God heard their grumbling. "How long will this wicked community grumble against me?" he asks (Numbers 14:27).

Complaining only makes matters worse. Because of their complaining and doubting God's deliverance, the Israelites wandered the desert for forty years. I have yet to reach that milestone in my age, perhaps you are approaching it or already hit it many years back. Can you fathom wandering forty years of your life in the desert? 

God has given you blessings to count, not issues to grumble about. He has given special markers in your faith where he provided as only he can, so you can praise him. When you start focusing on the blessings in your life, the complaints start falling on the way side.

God did not give breath so it can be used to sit around and complain all day. He gave it so others could be built up with it. For praising him. For sharing the good news. For joy and laughter and love. God gave you breath to praise him.  Here's a song that conveys just that, Great are you lord by All Sons and Daughters.

It's Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, we pour out our praise. It's Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only.
Praying that more praise and uplifting words would leave your mouth than negatives. Praying that complaints would be weaned from your vocabulary and thankfulness would be a regular. Praying you would use your breath for his glory and purpose. 

Here's to using your breath and all your being to give praises, not only to God but those around you. Less complaints and more compliments.
It was a busy day and I was trying to keep it all together. I had just made snack for my toddler, who was now busy eating away. I attempted to quickly make a snack for myself, along with a drink of water as my baby cried in his high chair waiting for his next request to be met. As I poured the water, God whispered when you serve yourself, someone else misses out. It was such an easy, yet powerful truth, reaching far beyond serving my kiddos.

It is vital to keep yourself balanced and centered in Christ but putting yourself first is not what Christ had in mind. Scripture says that the first will be last and the last will be first (Matt 20:16). Serving others is what makes life worth living. It keeps you focusing on the needs of others and thankful to God for meeting yours. No matter what stage of life you are in, or what ailments you have, there is always someone else to serve. Someone who can benefit from your awesome self. Someone you can help.

I am HUGE proponent of random acts of kindness, really any act of kindness is fabulous but the random ones are my favorite. God is able to be given the glory, as opposed to your name, even if you are being obedient to his guiding. There is something about doing something for others that just feels good.
Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3
People notice kind. They notice when you hold the door open for them, as you steer your double stroller through. They notice the smile you pass as you walk by. The encouraging words you speak. The compliments. They notice. And it may even rub off on them an on to someone else. So keep it close.

Here is a teeny, tiny idea list to get you thinking:
  • Small notes of encouragement for waiter/waitress with tip: money is always appreciated but words are powerful and not soon forgotten.
  • Notes for neighbors: simple thank you for the beautiful flowers they are growing in their front yard or thanks for being such awesome neighbors, your choice. Yummy snacks pair well here.
  • Thank you note to firemen: a card pairs well with cookies, too. You may even get a tour of the station, unless they are leaving for a call...
  • Encouraging note in library book: who doesn't like to find some fun words?
  • Notes on cars in parking lot: a few words on their windshield that is not a hit and run note, win-win.
  •  Write an encouraging note and send to an unknown recipient: it will get to where it needs to be.
  • Order dessert for another table when eating out: our family favorite. 
Praying that God opens your eyes to the little opportunities that await you, and that you would say yes. Praying that you find a little more kindness in others and in yourself. That you would get outside of you. I am sure you will find yourself smiling a little extra, too. Life is about connecting with others and sharing Christ's love and what better way than with some kindness as a foundation.

Here's to praying for God to give you opportunities to serve others and give what you can. Here's to more fun in giving kind words. 

Perhaps a post card or two will help to motivate you to start writing.

p.s. do not forget to wear your smile today, it looks good on you. 
Learning to stand. Watching a baby learn to stand is exciting and terrifying at the same time. Jude, and his nearly eight month old self, is just about at this point right now. With standing coming, more challenges arise as do the things to get in to. And more ways to attempt to baby proof. Then there is the ever impending fall.

In Matthew, Jesus heals a possessed man. The evil spirits leave him and go in to nearby pigs, which end up jumping off a cliff and drowning in the water below. The man was healed. Pigs were killed. After this happens scripture says:
The whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. Matthew 8:34
The whole town just witnessed a miracle. They met the promised Messiah, yet they pleaded with him to leave. There was no thanking him for healing the man or asking for further teaching or even another miracle. Just a request to leave. The town did now want Jesus among them. They did not care about the healed man. Luke's account of this story goes a bit further stating they wanted him to leave "because they were overcome with fear" (Luke 8:37).

Believing in Jesus can come with a certain amount of fear. What will people think when you start talking about believing in Jesus? What will you have to do? What do you have to give up? What rules do you have to follow? Are you really forgiven? What does this Christianity thing look like?

When everything boils down, Christianity looks like people. It looks like people coming along side one another showing them how to stand. How to stand in the gap for each other and with each other. How to love each other as Jesus taught. How to stand up for what Jesus taught and the things he stood for.

It looks like doing to others as you would have them do to you (Matt 7:12). It looks like you falling and your community being there to catch you when you lose your footing. It looks like them helping you up and showing you where the solid ground is and loving you where you are at. It looks like grace and love and mercy wrapped in a congregation on a Sunday morning. 

I pray that if you have not taken a stand in your faith, that you would ask God to guide you to. To give you the courageousness needed to take the next step. That fear would not have a hold on you but you would cling to hope. I pray you would find a community of believers that you will allow yourself to be just that, yourself - complete with all your messiness and love.

I pray that if you have your community established that you would be in prayer for God to open your eyes for others who do not yet have it. That you would see who God has placed by you, just for the purpose of you coming along side them. That you would give encouragement and answer questions and help build some footing in Christ. 

I think The Stand by Hillsong is fabulous and a great standing anthem. Have a listen. 

I'll stand with arms high and heart abandoned in awe of the one who gave it all. I'll stand my soul Lord to you surrendered all I am is yours. 
Here's to standing firm in Christ and in the gap for others. Here's to community and the love and fun that it entails.